Germany’s central bank: board member’s remarks about Muslims, Jews are damaging

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bundesbank: top banker’s comments unacceptable

BERLIN — Germany’s central bank has distanced itself from remarks by a board member that stereotyped Muslims and Jews, saying the comments are harmful and violate its code of conduct.

But the Bundesbank says Monday it will meet with banker Thilo Sarrazin before deciding on any disciplinary measures.

Sarrazin has said that “all Jews share a certain gene” and that Muslim immigrants in Europe are unwilling to or incapable of integrating into western societies.

Sarrazin’s comments have sparked controversy in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for his removal from bank’s board.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BERLIN (AP) — A leading German banker whose remarks stereotyping Muslims and Jews have sparked outrage launched his new book on immigration issues Monday amid calls for his removal from the central bank’s board.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Bundesbank should dismiss its board member Thilo Sarrazin after he said that “all Jews share the same gene” and that Muslim immigrants in Europe are unwilling or incapable of integrating into western societies.

“The government views the reputation of the Bundesbank as definitely harmed, domestically and abroad, by Mr. Sarrazin’s comments,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday. “The Bundesbank must be concerned about this.”

Bundesbank President Axel Weber was to make a statement on the issue later in the day.

In the book, Sarrazin maintains that immigrants have taken from Germany’s welfare system without contributing enough to the country.

Sarrazin, a member of Germany’s left-leaning Social Democrats, pushed back Monday, calling on his critics to read his 460-page book before reacting.

He insisted his comments were being taken out of context and that his book , “Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab,” or “Germany Abolishes Itself,” consists largely of “well documented analysis” that must be read before it can be criticized.

“We could save ourselves 80 percent of all political discussion and the remaining 20 percent would be much more fruitful, if we could first concentrate on the analysis, and then the evaluation and the political response” Sarrazin said. “Unfortunately, it usually works the opposite, also in the issues that I am addressing.”

In his book, the 65-year-old Sarazin maintains that “immigrants are not all the same,” insisting that “most of the cultural and economic problems are concentrated in a group of the five to six million immigrants from Muslim countries.”

Drawing the comparison to other ethnic groups who have immigrated to Germany, including from Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam, he says that Muslims in particular live in parallel societies for many generations.

“Only 3 percent of Turkish immigrants in the second generation marry German partners, as compared with 70 percent of ethnic Germans from Russia,” Sarrazin said.

As part of his argument, Sarrazin cites the controversial 1994 book published in the U.S. by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, “The Bell Curve,” which claimed that intelligence is a genetically linked characteristic of race. The theories on which that book was based have since been discredited by a panel of Harvard University scholars.

“Even in the second and third generations, the level of participation in education and integration in the job market shown by these groups is far below that of Germans or other immigrant groups and their descendants,” Sarrazin said of immigrants from Muslim countries.

Germany’s Jewish and Muslim communities have also condemned his remarks.

“This man is trying to reduce the problem (of integration) to the ethnic origin of people and is then vilifying them on that basis,” said Kenan Kolat, a leading member of the Turkish community. “It is pure racism.”

The general secretary of Germany’s Jewish Community said that Sarrazin would be better placed in a far-right party such as the NPD, than in the left-leaning Social Democrats. At the same time, he urged politicians to spend less energy on the banker’s remarks and more on the heart of the issue he discusses.

“Sarrazin is only the result of other problems, especially the inability of politicians to meet the challenges of immigration and integration and to develop a strategy for the future,” Stephan Kramer said in a statement after excerpts of the book were released last week.

Germany has little tolerance for anti-Semitic remarks since the Holocaust, and that many of the country’s immigrants have complained about being the targets of racist remarks and xenophobic behavior.

Several members of Sarrazin’s Social Democratic party will gather later Monday to discuss whether he should be forced to resign his membership.

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